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The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

09 May

Afghanistan, 1975: Twelve-year-old Amir is desperate to win the local kite-fighting tournament and his loyal friend Hassan promises to help him. But neither of the boys can foresee what will happen to Hassan that afternoon, an event that is to shatter their lives. After the Russians invade and the family is forced to flee to America, Amir realises that one day he must return to Afghanistan under Taliban rule to find the one thing that his new world cannot grant him: redemption.

Picking this up at the airport was always going to be a risk. as bestsellers always seem to be these days when it to comes to quality.  As expected it was an easy book to get into and a quick read, I enjoyed it to begin with, reading 132 pages in one sitting. Further on there were a few problems that niggled me and ultimately the book became distinctly average.

The first part of the book is superior to the rest by a country mile (or indeed a mile of any sort).  The depiction of Afghanistan and the life as seen through Amir’s eyes was interesting and his relationship with Hassan was one worth investing in .  Seeing the distinctions of class and race, as well as the influence of religion and the day-to-day life rituals of Afghans was something new and refreshing to read about.

I didn’t like Amir at all, he does nothing to endear himself to the reader but I appreciated that, it gives the writing more impact when I did feel sympathy for him.  His relationships with friends and family are decently done, enough to keep me caring about the characters throughout but never overly so.

There is some good prose – again mainly in the first part – and for a time I was totally engaged with the novel and the characters, sadly that ended with the first part of the book and it became more imprecise in its focus before descending into generic bestseller fare.  That is not to say that there wasn’t anything good to speak of in the latter ha;f, I found the nod to a lack of integration or acceptance of older immigrants, into new countries and cultures to be a good topic to approach.  Similarly the intolerance of Islam and the hypocritical way some have of applying religion, which stretches to all religions is a timely topic to write about.

The Afghans have had it particularly bad in recent history, the internal divisions of Islam, foreign powers invading and local powers vying for power in the vacuum between invasions, and the inequality of women.  The results of years of war and its human face are presented well in the book, as is the pride of Afghans over their land and history, and the eradication and erosion of both, especially by the Taliban.  There were not many women in the book and those ones that are, aren’t particularly memorable or strongly developed, however.

In the end I thought the novel was over stretched and some of the later incidents were a bit too coincidental or, I’m sorry to say ridiculous enough to laugh at.  It started to feel a little like a soap opera in places, with forced plot twists – designed to emotionally manipulate – piling up, to keep you reading.  It was too heavy-handed in this regard.  At the other end of the scale, there wasn’t too much character or relationship development and one of the characters came across as a ridiculous caricature, thereby losing all impact.

Although I make no secret of my lack of interest in bestsellers – usually for all the above reasons – I do dabble and went into this one with an open mind.  I was engaged to begin with but forced plot and a lack character development caused me to lose interest to the point where completing it was necessary just to give a fair review.  Had the tone of the first half carried on, it is safe to say I would read another Hosseini book, as it is, I probably won’t.

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34 Comments

Posted by on 09/05/2018 in Fiction

 

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34 responses to “The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

  1. Liz

    09/05/2018 at 04:41

    Hmmm – very interesting. I have not read this one, but it seems so well-known that I almost feel as if I have. What a pity that it turned out to be so disappointing. Would you say, though, that at the very least, it is good for books like this, which sell in their millions, to contribute in some way to raising awareness of problems and challenges faced by people in other countries?

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    • Ste J

      09/05/2018 at 06:28

      I totally agree, it will and has raised awareness, no doubt and for that the book is a good tool. I was left wondering whether a slower paced, more thoughtful approach to the latter parts would have had a lot more impact, as well as being more satisfying for myself.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Liz

        09/05/2018 at 14:31

        Indeed – sounds like a missed opportunity.

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  2. Jill Weatherholt

    09/05/2018 at 06:18

    I totally agree with your review, Ste J. At the beginning, I was very much into this book, but then I found myself running out of gas. Thanks for your honesty!

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    • Ste J

      09/05/2018 at 06:42

      The final half part does seem to have more of a film like quality to its tone, whether this was intentional or not, it could make the film a better watch than the book was to read. I am on the fence about that, as the book is usually better than the film (excepting The Princess Bride).

      Liked by 1 person

       
  3. Lyn

    09/05/2018 at 06:52

    That’s disappointing indeed, because the concept of the story sounds a good one. Maybe it would translate better into a movie – who knows. I tend to shy away from best sellers for the very reasons you state here and in yesterday’s post “Logrolling.” I’ve read a few books like that and it never fails to leave you frustrated. I’ve never forgotten – for all the wrong reasons – a book I read a few years ago. The prologue was absolutely brilliant and I couldn’t wait to read the rest of it. What a disappointment. The rest of the story had no bearing on the prologue at all. It was as if a talented mystery author had written the prologue and the rest had been written by an amateur.

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    • Ste J

      09/05/2018 at 07:20

      I was watching the BBC’s efforts on World Book Day, a few years ago and they had some documentaries on and one of the comments that caught my attention was from a bestseller writer (it was one of those writers – the name escapes me – who writes a series of formulaic books. He claimed the more literary writers were jealous of bestseller writers because they couldn’t write a bestseller but bestseller authors could write a literary book. I am still waiting for the evidence on that one.

      Bestsellers just aren’t meaty enough for me any more, I need something more substantial, although a bestseller is good to unwind with as you don’t need to invest much. If it gets people reading though, it is a wonderful stepping stone to the delights of so many good authors.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  4. shadowoperator

    09/05/2018 at 06:54

    Well, maybe don’t give up quite yet. Though I haven’t read any of this author’s books, I’ve seen “A Thousand Splendid Suns,” which is listed as his on your picture of the title page, given high marks. Maybe he has highs and lows in different books as well as in different places in the same book?

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    • Ste J

      09/05/2018 at 07:05

      I think I would prefer to wait for a film to be made of A Thousand Splendid Suns, although for a cheap price – and a lull in pressing books – I would be willing to spend a few reading sessions on another of his books.

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  5. Sarah

    09/05/2018 at 07:33

    I read this for my book group years ago so my memory is a little flaky on it now, but I do remember feeling the same growing disappointment as the novel progressed.

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    • Ste J

      09/05/2018 at 07:57

      It’s a shame, as the book could have been a strong piece of literature rather than descending into a predictable story that ruins the solid foundations that it was built upon.

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  6. cricketmuse

    09/05/2018 at 08:50

    This one keeps popping up on the AP read list, but it seems so sad to me. I have a difficult time embracing it. Life of Pi is also sad, yet the main character is more easily embraced for his trials.

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    • Ste J

      09/05/2018 at 12:13

      Life of Pi was a lot more subtle and I think worked a lot better for it. The magical realism is certainly easier to digest, than tragedy upon tragedy of this book.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  7. readinpleasure

    09/05/2018 at 21:45

    Well, well, well Ste J. I must say I am a bit surprised at your review, but then, you are being frank at how you felt about the Kite Runner. To me it was so profound and the impact on me had me reeling for days. For one, the Kite Runner shattered my illusion of Afghanistan as depicted by western propaganda. And indeed, the propaganda machinery of the west does a damn good job painting all others black including black Africa. 🙂

    Amir’s inability to save his friend from sodomy and his guilt is quite telling. This single fact, more than the others underpins his remorse and or lack thereof and his final return home to make amends sort of. I admit, I never really liked Amir. He came across as selfish and there was nothing redeeming about him. His father was worse. But I believe with age and maturity, he redeemed himself by going back home, though it proved to be too late.

    There is always the issue of class and race of course, cutting across too. All in all I think Hosseini did a good job with the Kite Runner. I would agree that A Thousand Splendid Suns really dragged along the way and I lost interest in it and never finished reading it. I will have to go back to it so I can be well informed. I am yet to read And The Mountains Echoed stashed on my TBR. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Ste J

      10/05/2018 at 15:53

      It was good to see a human side to Afghanistan that showed both the good and the bad. I think having less twists – a lot of them not feeling organic – would have given the book a more natural feeling arc and perhaps one in which the characters could grow more. I quite liked Amir’s father, not so much his character but I did get the impression there was more depth to his character that wasn’t mentioned and I felt he came to conclusions in his own time that became apparent subtly.

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  8. Clare Pooley

    10/05/2018 at 09:11

    Thank you for your honest review Ste J. I am never drawn to best sellers either so I’ll probably give this one a miss.

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  9. Maniparna Sengupta Majumder

    12/05/2018 at 06:40

    I’ve read this one and also “A Thousand Splendid Suns”. I think the latter is much better in every way, though, as you said, a bit dragged in the end. You can give “A Thousand Splendid Suns” a try… 🙂

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  10. macjam47

    13/05/2018 at 07:21

    I have to agree with your review, Steve. I felt pretty much the same when I read it. I haven’t read anything by Hosseini since.

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    • Ste J

      17/05/2018 at 13:53

      I don’t think I will pick anything else up by him in a hurry, luckily I have followed that up with three good books already which I am excited to review soon.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • macjam47

        18/05/2018 at 02:01

        Sounds like you have your reading covered.

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  11. Andrea Stephenson

    14/05/2018 at 00:49

    This is one of those I thought I should read because of the hype but have never been attracted enough to it to read it, so it was interesting to read your review – I still won’t be rushing to read it!

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    • Ste J

      17/05/2018 at 14:04

      I picked this up being at Bali airport and desperate to buy a book. I will admit the hype factor in a little as it has been a while since I bought a bestseller. I will stick to my usual Stephen King fix when I fancy a bestseller in future.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  12. Sheila

    22/05/2018 at 00:58

    I was disappointed in this one too. I’m glad you had the same thoughts because it seems as if most people love it and I always wondered why. I did really love And the Mountains Echoed though – the beautiful writing style comes through better and the story resonated with me more.

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    • Ste J

      22/05/2018 at 06:34

      People who don’t like it do seem to be in a minority, it appears. With a story focusing more on the slow, introspective build up of the first half, it would have been a much stronger book than the plot heavy twists of the latter end of the book. Sadly plot over character seems to sell better.

      Liked by 1 person

       
  13. Idle Muser

    22/05/2018 at 07:47

    I’m bit reluctant to set my experience up here, Steve, but, for me, this book was a life-changer in a way, I’d say. As far as I can remember, it was reading this book that reminded me and pushed me to give my writing a serious thought. That might have been purely coincidental too; but I like to believe otherwise.

    I read ‘The Kite Runner’, in 2016, after a borrowed ‘A thousand splendid suns’, and liked TKR better. I don’t remember any part of the book that seemed draggy or over-stretched to me then. But those were the days when I was in the inception stage of making reading a regular habit of mine. Now, if I re-read it, I might feel differently. I might not too. Don’t know.

    His third book, And the Mountains Echoed, didn’t have that impact on me, I remember, because of a new experimentation he tried on it.

    Yet, it was from Hosseini’s books that my journey to reading started, and that probably will let me be his admirer for some significant amount of time.

    Liked by 1 person

     
    • Ste J

      22/05/2018 at 09:37

      Any book that inspires is a good thing and I am glad you found something in it that pushed you to create and focus upon your words. It seems that more people like this book than don’t but I also enjoy the differing opinions, they allow me to consider the book in a new light.

      You make an interesting point about books, judging from the books you read, you have pushed into some heavier literature, and non fiction so I wonder how you would engage with the book on a second reading, I am sure you would still have the affection for it, especially as it inspired your course in life but from a technical point of view, it would be intriguing to know.

      I will pick up another of his books in the future no doubt but with so many authors to try, I still feel like a kid in a playground, after all these years.

      Liked by 1 person

       
      • Idle Muser

        23/05/2018 at 16:15

        After reading your review, even I was bit surprised that the book lacked and lagged behind at the places you mentioned, and I didn’t even notice them. Now, I’m even more pumped up to re-read it. But, like always, don’t know when.
        As you said, we are all a kid in a playground, when it comes to reading. The area is so vast to cover that we have got to think and re-think and think some more before heading to cover the same patch again.

        Liked by 1 person

         
        • Ste J

          24/05/2018 at 06:38

          Circumstances of moving have allowed me to reread the few books I took over with me, I do admit I tend to look to pastures new when reading, unless I feel ill, then I want the comfort of a book I know, unless the current read is really good of course!

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  14. Purpleanais

    07/06/2018 at 17:32

    We are in TOTAL agreement here, did not enjoy this book for the reasons you mentioned. I think I gave my copy away to a friend and let me tell you, I NEVER give books away – says it all really.

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    • Ste J

      09/06/2018 at 08:38

      It’s usually a mark of how little we regard books when we give them away, people should know better that when we give books away they aren’t that good. I will still try the odd bestseller but never really hold out much for them being very good these days. The odd one will no doubt surprise me.

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